by Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
3 of 5 Stars
“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” takes place three years after the catastrophic events of Jurassic World left the revamped Jurassic Park abandoned. When the volcano on the island where the park was located is forecasted to erupt, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), who now works for the Dinosaur Preservation Group, is asked by the billionaire who helped start the original park to go on a secret mission to rescue the remaining dinosaurs so they can be taken to a special preserve. She asks Owen (Chris Pratt), her now ex-boyfriend, to accompany her on the trip in order to track Blue, his beloved velociraptor. During the trip, it’s clear that Claire and Owen are in over their heads; eventually they’re forced into a life-or-death situation — both for themselves and for the dinosaurs they want to save.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is just as violent and terrifying as its predecessor, 2015’s “Jurassic World.” Although the action no longer takes place inside a tourist-filled dinosaur theme park, there’s still a large body count (mostly armed mercenaries and billionaire moguls). And there are lots of intense scenes of sustained terror, suspense, and peril, including a prolonged sequence in which a very scary genetically modified dinosaur tracks and tries to kill a young girl. People are eaten, torn to shreds, trampled, and severely injured. On the upside, there are more notable female characters in this installment than the last, and the movie has themes of teamwork and bravery. Families who enjoyed Jurassic World will be able to handle this sequel, but younger viewers sensitive to violence and menacing creatures may not be ready for all of the people-chomping. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard again co-star.
Despite this action-packed sequel’s uneven tone, director J.A. Bayona continues to thrill audiences with jump-worthy suspense and to create a bond between viewers and the dinosaurs. The elements of a summer blockbuster are all there: charismatic stars, smarmy villains (Rafe Spall, who’s inherited his father Timothy‘s ability to play eevil quite well), plucky/adorable child (Isabella Sermon, in her first role), swooping score (Michael Giacchino, doing a wonderful job of channeling John Williams), and lots and lots of heart-stopping action. But something keeps this sequel from ranking up there with the best of the Jurassic films. It explores too many avenues and doesn’t close the loop on a few of the issues it raises.
While the story requires suspension of disbelief in several places — and Spall’s character is all but mustache-twirling in his stereotypical villainy — Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom still delivers where it ultimately counts: the dinosaurs. The intricate computer-generated creatures are so convincing. One scene in particular involving young Maisie and a foodchain-topping dinosaur will definitely tie stomachs in knots. So go for the action and the dread, but don’t expect a movie that’s nearly as iconic as the original Jurassic Park.
Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Ted Levine; Director: J.A. Bayona; Universal Pictures; 128 minutes; MPAA rating: PG-13